Being involved in a car accident is a stressful event but dealing with insurance companies after the accident can be just as frustrating. Following the trauma of a serious car accident, a person is often in a state of emotional shock, and at the same time getting treatment for multiple injuries. Insurance companies will often take advantage of this fact when working with a car accident victim and will use this stress and confusion to their advantage. The following 11 tricks are commonly used by insurance companies to discredit or devalue your car accident claim.
- Offering to pay your out-of-pocket expenses.
Insurance companies will many times try to fool accident victims by offering to pay the out-of- pocket bills (or the amount the victim’s insurance company does not cover through personal injury protection coverage). The offer is appealing because the victim does not have to pay out-of- pocket medical expenses. This offer of out-of-pocket expenses requires the victim to sign a release of the entire claim or all claims related to the accident. The risk is that the victim may not be fully compensated for the totality of the injuries suffered. Initially after the crash, the full extent of the victim’s injuries is not fully known. And, if the victim agrees to a quick settlement and signs the release it is very likely they will not be able to get more money for compensation later. When the at fault driver’s insurance company makes such an offer, they know what they are doing is something underhanded. This is because the law in Florida does not require the at fault driver who caused the victim’s injury to pay only the out of pocket medical expenses. Florida law requires the at fault driver (and their insurance company) to cover all past and future medical expenses and all past and future wage loss directly caused by the crash. And, if the victim has suffered a permanent injury, the at fault driver, is required to be responsible for all money to cover all past and future pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life – the human aspect of any injury.
- Pressuring you to provide a recorded statement.
One of the first things insurance companies will tell car accident victims is that they must immediately provide a statement regarding their injuries and damages. Many times, they will say this is required for the claims process. However, you are under no obligation to provide a statement to the insurance company. In fact, we discourage it. Whether the statement be written or verbal, anything you say could be used against you later if you pursue a legal claim.
- Acting like they are your friend, your neighbor, and on your side.
Despite what you see on TV commercials, insurance companies (yes, even your own) are not your friend, your neighbor and you are certainly not in ‘good hands.’ During that first communication with the insurance company, it is likely they will be extra nice to you and make statements to put you at ease. The goal is to get you to let your guard down so that you will be more willing to work with them on settling. The fact of the matter is they have one goal in mind and that is to keep the dollar amount they end up paying as low as possible. It is always best to be somewhat guarded when talking with insurance providers and know they are working on behalf of the insurance company.
- Requesting accident details.
Along the same lines of requesting a formal statement, even if you do not provide one, insurance adjusters will still try to get you to provide details on what happened. Aside from the very basic details, including where the accident occurred, when it occurred and the types of vehicles involved, do not provide anything more. If they continue to push, it may be best to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney in your area.
- Pushing you to accept blame for the accident.
Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means that if the injured party who is pursuing a legal claim is at all responsible for the accident, that person’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of blame he or she had in the accident. Insurance providers know this, and they will do anything possible to get you to take ownership of some portion of the accident, which will reduce what they must pay you in the end. Never make any statement that would indicate you had any part in why the accident occurred.
- Encourage you to take a quick settlement offer.
Insurance companies want to move the claim through as quickly as possible, and they will often push car accident victims to sign off on a settlement as soon as possible. However, you are under no obligation to adhere to their timeline. It is important that Florida auto accident victims seek initial medical treatment within 14 days following the accident. You have up to four years from the date of the crash to file a claim in Florida.
- Downplaying the severity of your injuries.
After being involved in an accident, your body is often in a state of shock, which is why many car accident victims do not fully realize how serious their injuries are until weeks or even months after the accident. Insurance companies have been known to downplay the severity of your injuries when communicating with you in hopes that you will not pursue a more sizeable claim for your injuries or that you will make a statement, agreeing that your injuries are not that serious.
- Checking your social media accounts.
A tactic the insurance companies use is to look up the accident victim on social media to see if the individual has discussed the accident at all on his or her social media accounts. Statements made on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms can be used as evidence against the injured party. If you say anything that indicates you are responsible for your injuries or post anything that could give them reason to say your injuries are not as severe as you claim, they will use this against you later. When in doubt, do not post anything at all about the accident, no matter how harmless it may seem.
- Requesting a general medical release.
Insurance companies will often tell injured parties that they require a general medical release to be signed, allowing them to have access to all your medical records. They assume that you will not know this will allow them to access years’ worth of medical records, rather than those pertinent only to the car accident. They simply do not have the legal right to have access to all your medical information.
- Discouraging you from hiring an attorney.
Insurance companies might say you do not need to hire an attorney to handle your claim. They may claim that they accept responsibility for the accident to get you to agree to work directly with them on a settlement. However, they have trained legal teams working on their behalf, which always puts them at an advantage. It is always best if you have an attorney talking with the insurance company to ensure you receive a fair settlement.
- Playing on your inexperience.
The main reason why so many of these tricks work is the fact that insurance companies assume you simply do not know any better. Well, now you know. Insurance companies deal with these types of cases every day, whereas this may be the only time in your life where you are dealing with this type of situation. Insurance companies will use this fact to their advantage in getting you to agree to anything they ask. It is always best to have someone on your side, which is why we recommend you speak with an attorney before deciding to agree to any settlement offered by the insurance company.